Interview with Czech artist Marek Žiška of Sea Of Poppies

FLON: Hi, so Sea Of Poppies is a new project, right? How is it different than what you’ve done before, and what was the inspiration for exploring a new direction?

MZ: Hi there! Yes, a brand new project, I just released my debut tape this June. The differences are quite big, since my last project, Deprivation Chamber, was dark ambient, so this is quite a radical change. There have been a few inspirations for this new direction. First, I always put heavy industrial influences into Deprivation Chamber’s music, so going further down that direction made sense, I think. Second, I was always really fascinated by the old school, first and second wave industrial music scene. The final one was probably the most important, though. I have been struggling with bad health problems (especially eye problems) for years now, and it ended up being so bad that I basically couldn’t use my eyes for much of anything. It got to me really bad, both mentally and physically, so getting a bunch of analogue equipment (I couldn’t use PC because of my eyes, and I prefer to have “tactile feedback” anyway) and experimenting with sound was a very welcome escape, or catharsis, if you want. Plus, I could also finally realize my dream and make a noise tape experimenting with all those techniques my favorite artists pioneered, which was a really nice bonus, and figuring out how to make interesting sounds using unusual methods was a great distraction.

FLON: When you say analogue, are you using modular synths, or stand-alone stuff?

MZ: I would love to have some modular synths, but sadly, no, I don’t have enough money for that. Although the last song I released, The Central Scrutinizer, was made on Monotron Delay so that…kind of counts, I guess? But no, it’s mostly the classic “let’s see what I can use to make stuff and how it will sound” approach – tapes, loops, guitars, pedals, no-input mix, AM/FM radio, microphone, feedback, all that classic stuff.

FLON: Have you been or are you going to perform the new stuff live?

MZ: I would really love that, especially since the local scene is really great (seriously, go check some of the Czech guys out!), but my health just won’t allow it right now. I’m hoping it will change at some point, as I really enjoy playing freeform/improv and I’ve found with Deprivation Chamber that playing live really helps me improve as an artist. All the best stuff I did with that project was live, it’s a shame I never thought of getting it recorded, because I’m not really all that happy with the one EP I released now in retrospect. I even have a fun idea in my mind for a kind of a “biomusic noise” set, but I’ll have to wait and see if I can ever get to that.

FLON: Oh, cool. Would you be using human, animal, or plant biofeedback? You don’t have to give your whole idea away, but I’m curious.

MZ: Human. My own, to be specific. I want to do it improvised and live, so no other way would be possible. Can’t bring an animal to a noise show, obviously. It would be definitely interesting to try and tackle plant signals some day, but I don’t think I have the budget or know the people needed to figure that out right now.

FLON: Would you be doing that under the Sea Of Poppies moniker, or would that be separate?

MZ: Yep, that would be a Sea of Poppies gig. I would definitely have to play a few before that though, because it has been over 6 years since I last played live, and I would need to get accustomed to performing again before trying anything I never done before.

FLON: So, you mentioned other noise artists in Czechia What is the scene there like? Are there clubs to play, or is it more DIY spaces or house shows?

MZ: Okay, so, first of all, I need to say that I’m not really the best person to talk about the scene, since I haven’t been at a show for over 5 years now, becuase of my health, and I kind of lost touch with it as a result. Live-wise, all the shows are usually in clubs or art spaces (most traditional music clubs here aren’t really genre-exclusive, and operate on per-night fixed rent fee, after that they don’t really care what plays here, and of course there’s some small venues where you can strike a deal or just straight up get a place to play for free), except for some rare shows that are held in “special” places – like when I saw Con-Dom play in an abandoned bomb shelter in the middle of the woods, or a fest that was held in an old, closed weapon factory. The scene is of course really small, being the “underground” of underground music in a small country, but the people in it are exceptionally dedicated, which has kept it strong ever since first wave industrial came here in the mid-80s. The attendance isn’t massive, as you’d expect – sometimes it’s weird when you look around and a big percentage of the crowd is made out of artists, but on the other hand, it’s great to see artists come out and support their scene. The fact that the scene is so small means it’s also primarily based around a few of the biggest cities in the country. Even though it’s small, the dedication of the people around it brought us a lot of festivals over the years, lately the most notable ones are Hradby Samoty, which really is a world-class experimental music fest (if you check out the lineups, they had names like Raison D’etre, Void ov Voices, Deutsch Nepal, In Slaughter Natives, Trepaneringsritualen, Iszoloscope… highly recommend going there, if you’re ever in the area), although they also hold it in Slovakia sometime, Audiotrauma Fest, which is a festival of Audiotrauma label artists, and Noise Fest in Brno which is more low-profile, but still has great lineup every year. Brutal Assault, the biggest metal fest in CZ also now regularly features experimental music side-stage. In the past, we had Moravian Industrial Fest which also brought some huge names like C.3.3., 300.000 V.K, Suicide Inside… And we get great regular gigs too – Hiroshi Hasegawa was here a few months back, for example. As far as local artists, I have nothing but praise for everyone and naming everyone I like would make this last forever. Just from the top of my head, Instinct Primal (who worked with names like Hiroshi Hasegawa, :wumpscut:, Hecate, Contagious Orgasm, IRM, Dead Voices on Air…), Stor, Magadan, Akimbo, NAPALMED, Sklo, Einleitungszeit, Noční Provoz, everyone around the Hluková Sekce and Pravěk noise section, Vladimír Hirsch, and of course Paprsky Inženýra Garina, one of the biggest legends of the scene… There really is too many to list, I would recommend everyone to look at the past Hradby Samoty lineups and use that as a starting point to Czech and Slovak noise, all of those projects are great. Another project that I believe never got to play there – and I’m not sure if they still exist – is Lovci Lebek, who I’ve seen as a supporting act for Merzbow, and they completely blew Merzbow’s set out of the water in my opinion.

As for the old school scene, it really is fascinating. Punk and a lot of the other “new” genres were banned in the Socialist Czechoslovakia, but they never found a good enough reason to ban industrial and noise, so there was a scene even then. A lot of the old recordings are being archived by the CS Industrial 1982-2010 over at https://csindustrial1982-2010.bandcamp.com/. They also have a blog and Facebook, but most of that is in Czech.

FLON: That sounds pretty awesome. I Hope I get to visit Czechia someday. glad to know about your new project. please let me know when you have new stuff out.

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